CLS Strategies Intern Spotlight: Jackson Haines

CLS Strategies Intern Spotlight: Jackson Haines

Jackson is a senior at American University studying political science. During his time at AU, Jackson has served as president of his fraternity, held multiple on-campus jobs, and taken part in various student organizations. Prior to interning for CLS, he interned with The Incite Agency and shadowed two defense attorneys as a legal intern at Bruckheim & Patel, LLC. Originally from a suburb of Philadelphia, he plans to return to Pennsylvania after spending a few years as a post-graduate in D.C. 

Who/what has had the most impact on your academic or professional interests?

My dad, who spent 30 years as a writer and editor for our local newspaper, told me going into high school that I should join the school newspaper. There’s no doubt that my interest in journalism and media stems from that decision. More broadly, he has inspired me to be more interested in writing and reading – and trivia.

I have always been fascinated by politics and history, but I'd say that it went from a hobby to a career aspiration in my junior year of high school. My AP US History teacher, Josh Stoner, really knew his stuff and wanted us to know it, too. He was unfailingly friendly, but also incredibly demanding. I fell in love with the subject material and totally devoted myself to what is still the hardest class I've taken, in terms of workload. Ever since, I've always enjoyed reading about politics and history, and participating in the former. 

What do you look for in an internship experience, and how has this shaped your career goals?

Luckily, every internship I’ve had has allowed me to do work that made a difference to my supervisor or the company. But I think what’s most important for me isn’t just doing work that means something. It’s seeing the boss in action. It’s getting to sit in on team meetings and hear about strategy or help a supervisor with a project. This way, I can get a feel for the culture of the office and the profession and see what it’s truly about. Perhaps that's why I've pursued communications internships more than other fields because I feel like they are particularly hands-on. 

What are your long-term career goals?

As my parents can attest, the answer to this question changes about every six months. My current answer might be the one I stick with, because for the second time in my college career I want to go to law school and become a lawyer. Since high school, I’ve been fascinated by constitutional law.  This past summer, I had a great experience interning at a criminal defense firm, and I found the work meaningful— and at times heartbreaking. I don’t know if I’d want to be a criminal defender, but I think there’s something noble in using the law as an instrument of reform or as a way of setting things right. Whether that entails prosecuting criminals, providing legal aid to the poor, or helping to reform unjust laws, I don’t know, but I do want to do something meaningful.

What has surprised you so far about your journey towards your career goals? 

Coming into college, I didn’t think I would be as involved in communications as I am.  Sure, I was involved in the student newspaper, and media and communications have always fascinated me, but I just saw myself sticking to something else. To me, it just shows that you should always keep an open mind and try something new — you might like it.

Can you expand on your interest in public relations?

My interest in public relations stems from high school, when the school newspaper took some flak for an editorial we wrote. Many people didn’t like it and weren’t afraid to say so on social media. A narrative developed that we were a biased publication led by far-left, strong-headed teenagers.  We thought that was unfair and false.  When we took questions from local media about it we were careful to emphasize that our biggest concern was our journalistic integrity. We also started recruiting more conservative writers to keep a balance on our editorial page. I really enjoyed the fight to get our narrative out there. Public relations is a battle for hearts and minds. I still think the most interesting part of it is crafting an image and working to make the predominant media narrative one that advances your beliefs and the facts.

What comes easiest to you as an intern at CLS Strategies?

I like putting my projects in context, and I am naturally curious, so I quickly started doing background research into our clients and asking questions to understand the issues that we were working on. Because of this, it was easy for me to find myself invested in the work of our clients even if it did not personally affect me. 

What has been your biggest challenge as an intern at CLS Strategies? How do you address that?

Working for several different teams and associates that have different expectations and preferences for projects proved challenging at first. For morning media monitoring, I have several clients that require very similar stories but with slight differences in what they prefer. For a while, I would include too much for one client, and not enough for another. The fix for that was clear communication with the associates and not being afraid to ask questions.  

What is your favorite thing about living in Washington, D.C.?

As a history nerd, I really enjoy living somewhere steeped in so much history, and where history still happens every day. Aside from that cliché answer, I think that D.C. has an eclectic mix of neighborhoods with interesting subcultures, and there’s always something to do (often for free!). It’s also a remarkably clean city and has a diverse blend of cuisines.  

On our website, we ask all of our staff to share three things about themselves. What are three things about yourself that we might not know?

1. In high school I worked as a staff photographer at a Sesame Street-themed amusement park. My friends recommended that I try out for the part of Big Bird but, ironically, I was too tall for the costume.

2. I am a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan and can be found shouting at the TV on any given Sunday during the season.

3. I studied for a semester in Rome— but you wouldn’t think so judging from my Italian. 

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